Anti–hate signs can still be found at The Claremont Colleges,even though Claremont–Mckenna professor

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Earlier this year, Georgia became the 47th state to enact hate crime legislation.

The law ensures crimes motivated by a victim's race, religion, or sexual orientation carry additional penalties. But what it doesn't do is protect those same victims from discrimination.

One local lawmaker is hoping to change that, one city at a time.

Stephe Koontz, who broke barriers and became the state’s only transgender elected official, thinks the state waited too long to start paying attention.

"People have had to die before the state took notice," Koontz said.

Stephe Koontz

Stephe Koontz, Doraville City Councilwoman in District 3


Koontz won a seat on the Doraville city council in 2017 and is now mayor pro tem.

"The community in Doraville was open enough to vote the first trans elected official in the state and that tells me the people here don't discriminate and have open minds," Koontz said.

Despite the doubts of others, Koontz pressed forward with the dream of running for office.

"I've wanted to run for public office for a decade and everyone told me you're unelectable… there’s no way a trans person will get elected in Georgia,” Koontz said.

"The fact that that happened in the south sends a signal things are changing, people’s minds are opening up and we're becoming a better company because of it.”

Now Koontz wants to see even more change in the state -- with the passage of anti-discrimination laws. Though Georgia already has a hate crimes bill -- which passed this year, Koontz wants to see broader legislation that prevents discrimination.

Georgia is just one of three states that still doesn't have an anti-discrimination law on the books.

“Violent crimes are the end result of systemic discrimination... it starts with language and turning people down from renting apartment serving in restaurant,” said Koontz.

It's that kind of discrimination that motivated Koontz to develop Doraville's antidiscrimination ordinance last year. Koontz has since used that ordinance as a template for legislation in Smyrna, Brookhaven and others.


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